An important theme in Macbeth is the relation between gender and power. How does the writer subvert his characters' perception of gender roles? An important theme in Macbeth is the relation...

An important theme in Macbeth is the relation between gender and power. How does the writer subvert his characters' perception of gender roles? 

An important theme in Macbeth is the relation between gender and power. How does the writer subvert his characters' perception of gender roles?

 

Asked on by umara

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auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

When using the key words "gender," "power," and "subvert" in terms of Shakespeare's Macbeth, there is only one character to which all three are applicable--Lady Macbeth, of course.  You have some excellent analysis already, and I would only add one more idea.  Lady Macbeth is--in all ways but one--the consummate hostess.  There was an implied power to that position, which she clearly subverts when she undertakes the murder of a guest in her own home.

shakespeareguru's profile pic

shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I'm not quite sure I understand your question.  The "perception" of power that you speak of would be something that the audience holds, since the characters are inside the story, not perceiving and analyzing it.  Certainly, especially in Shakespeare's plays, characters comment on the action, but since Shakespeare is the creator of his own characters, he cannot subvert their perception of anything.  They simply exist as he has created them.

On the other hand, the audience is on the outside of the story, and Shakespeare, if he is aware of perceptions and preconceptions they might have regarding a subject such as gender roles, might definitely create a character with the intention of surprising or subverting the audience's expectations.

The best example of this sort of reversal of expectation would be the character of Lady Macbeth.  Her role, as wife to a high-ranking Thane, would have been, first to produce an heir, and also to assist her husband in maintaining his rank and position and serving as hostess to their guests.  However, in the very first scene in which she is introduced in the play, she is demanding to be "un-sexed" and proceeds to manhandle Macbeth into following through on what appears to be a stronger lust for power and position than that of her husband.

And, subverting his audience's expectation yet again, he has this same  super-strong Lady Macbeth, by Act V, wilt and break as the frailest of female flowers under the weight of her guilt.  She turns into a mad and fragile female, unable to withstand the consequences of her mighty and masculine choices earlier in the play.

teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

In Macbeth, traditional gender roles are subverted through the power play that exists between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the beginning of the play.  When Lady Macbeth learns of the witches' prophecy, she immediately thinks that her husband does not have enough courage in him to go after the throne.  On several occasions, she chides Macbeth's manhood and tells him that he is not strong enough to get the deed done in the hope of persuading him to follow through with murdering King Duncan.  In one of her soliloquies, Lady Macbeth wishes that fate would "unsex" her so that she might be able to do the deed herself without fear.  These scenes suggest that traditional gender roles are reversed by the power play between two characters.

narutox's profile pic

narutox | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

In Macbeth, traditional gender roles are subverted through the power play that exists between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the beginning of the play.  When Lady Macbeth learns of the witches' prophecy, she immediately thinks that her husband does not have enough courage in him to go after the throne.  On several occasions, she chides Macbeth's manhood and tells him that he is not strong enough to get the deed done in the hope of persuading him to follow through with murdering King Duncan.  In one of her soliloquies, Lady Macbeth wishes that fate would "unsex" her so that she might be able to do the deed herself without fear.  These scenes suggest that traditional gender roles are reversed by the power play between two characters.

an important theme in macbeth is the relationship of gender and power. what are these values, and how do various characters express that relationship through their words and actions?

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